Apps for Literacy – For young adults with Intellectual Impairments

I just got back from a great training session with the teachers who run the “Latch-on Program”, which is a literacy program for young adults with Intellectual impairments. You can read more information about the program here: And if you didn’t know this about me, I have a special interest in supporting children and young adults with Down Syndrome as well as in literacy and language development; so this was a perfect opportunity for me to share some information and inspiration!

Latch-on co-ordinates a number of programs around the state and is even extending internationally, so it was a great chance to introduce the iPad and see how this amazing tool can fit within their program. After providing the training and talking to the teachers, I am so positive that the iPad is really going to make such a difference in their classroom programs, and here’s why: they already have a strong learning framework with goals and strategies so how they integrate the iPad to help achieve these goals without losing sight of what they are trying to achieve, is what will make the difference. I look forward to staying in touch with the team and hearing how the program progresses in the next 6 months.

So, in preparing for my workshop today, I have to thank Greg O’Connor , our Professional and Consultancy Manager, who, as far as I am concerned, is an absolute guru in Literacy. I have loved learning from him and his webinar “Apps for Literacy” and accompanying handouts was very useful. Also thank you to the wonderful clients I work with, who let me “try out” all the latest apps..!

Many of the apps I shared today can be found on our APPS LIST – Apps for Literacy , and I have added some of my own favourites!

Apps for AAC - By Greg O'Connor

So in today’s workshop we looked at:

Introduction to some basic features and tricks for using the iPad: for more information, go to this blog post:

We also looked at searching for Apps in the App Store, looking within the Education category. The free App “Autism Apps” is also another handy to way to search for apps within category areas.

Literacy Apps:

Reading supports:

  • We looked at turning Speak Selection on (Settings-General- Accessibility), so it could read text in notes, Pages, and in webpages (including using the “Reader” tool in the website address bar to access a simpler, no-web-tables version)
  • We also played with using Voice Over (Setting-General-Accessibility). One teacher thought that it might be useful for some of his clients who are unable to read, to have the app names read aloud to them before they decide to open it or not. Or for different website links to be read aloud before choosing which website to go to.
  • vBookZ PDF – For reading aloud PDF documents
  • ClaroSpeak AU – For converting text to audio files
  • I also shared the fantastic website for an amazing collection of books, which also can be accessed on an iPad where internet access is available

Writing and notetaking:

  • Penultimate – useful for taking handwritten notes and adding photos.
  • Audionote – another notetaking tool, this one also allows you to make audio notes.
  • Verbally and Assistive Chat – whilst designed as communication tools, they can be useful for as writing tools, as they provide speech feedback and word prediction.
  • Paper Helper – allows you have your notes page open on one side and a website open on the other
  • Voice Dictation tools – The New Pad has in built dictation capabilities on the keyboard, but for other ipads, try Dragon Dictation.
  • Typ-o – typing with word prediction and speech feedback
  • Smart Writing Tool – 7 notes : Allows handwriting, as well as typing to take notes. Word prediction is available when typing. In paid versions of this app, it allows handwritten notes to be converted into text.
  • Many of these apps allow the documents created to be shared, via email or dropbox

Graphic Organisors:

Reference Tools:

Publishing and Creating Tools:

  • Creative Book Builder – we looked at how easy it is to create your very own books, inserting photos, videos, audiofiles and text.
  • My Story Bookmaker – another easy to use book creator.
  • Both of these allow the book to be published to iBooks or as PDF files.
  • For fun, we looked at Toontastic – for creating your own cartoons.

Remote mirroring:

  • Splashtop remote – allows your ipad to mirror and access another computer providing they are on the same wifi network.


Many of the young adults in the Latch-on program are still developing effective phonics skills for reading and spelling and the program continues to offer support in these areas. The challenge is finding apps that can target phonics and spelling, that are also age appropriate.

  • Simplex Spelling – fantastic app for spelling words with full phonic supports and simple presentation. This is the LITE version, but all 3 paid version are excellent, with different levels of spelling and spelling rules. As someone who does A LOT of literacy instruction, I love these APPs!
  • There are also many many different types of spelling test makers, allowing you to add a word to a list, record it and then use the list for spelling tests. Spelling Tutor
  • Phonics Genius and Sight Words – useful as simple flashcards to support phonic or sight word learning.
  • PB Phonics – Teaches words within sound groups before testing. With a simple interface and an Australian Accent, this app is also useful.
  • Reading and Spelling Magic apps, are free and can be useful for some basic reading and spelling instruction, but also may not present as age appropriate to the older people you work with.


And two tricky apps I ran out of time to show today:…..

PRIZMO – will scan a piece of text (from a piece of paper, from a book) and convert it to electronic text.

QR CODES – Scan a QR code, to make instant links to websites, contacts and more. Read Greg’s blog for more information.


If your organisation is interested in training that is customised to your work place, please email us at

Until next time, thanks for stopping by today!


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About Amanda Hartmann

Amanda is a Speech Pathologist with over 17 years experience. She has worked within educational settings, and currently divides her time between her busy private practice and as an Inclusive Technology Consultant with Spectronics

Amanda is a Key Word Sign/Makaton Presenter, an official Proloquo2Go trainer and an official expert TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box. She is also a certified Apple Trainer and regularly runs iPad workshops to help schools integrate iPad technology into the classroom, for all learners.

Amanda has a special interest in supporting and developing communication, literacy and learning for a wide range of diverse learners, often through the use of visual tools, sign language and technology. She has spent many years providing therapy support and teacher/parent training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for students with complex communication needs, due to disabilities such as: Cerebral palsy and other Physical impairments, Visual impairment, Hearing impairment, Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Intellectual Impairment, Angelman Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others. She also has specialist knowledge to support the literacy learning of students with learning difficulties, language impairments and other diverse learning needs. She is passionate about providing interactive and engaging presentations to educators, parents and therapists.

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